Can fresh green salad revolutionize our country's children's health? House Reps. Tim Ryan (D, OH-13), Sam Farr (D, CA-20) and Frederica S. Wilson (D, FL-24) think so. The bill, titled The Salad Bar Expansion Act, plans to put a salad bar in every elementary, middle, and high school in America.
In a press release, Ryan explains:
Currently, one-third of the children in the United States are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. As a parent, I understand the importance of teaching our children how to eat healthier, and it is our responsibility to help reverse this dangerous trend. Salad bars have proven to be an effective and affordable way to make school lunch more nutritious."
The bill puts the onus on the USDA to use some of their existing funding to market salad bars in schools, provide training and technical assistance for food service staffs, and establish grant funds “to award schools a one-time payment equal to the anticipated cost of installing a salad bar, including the purchase of any durable equipment required for a salad bar.” It also allows the USDA to prioritize low income schools.
The central idea is choice. Otherwise millions of kids are looking at pizza/chicken nuggets as their menu options, day after day. Salad bars have been shown to increase the likelihood that children will eat something healthy. It’s a pretty simple idea and even though it seems a bit absurd, yes, it's come to this: the federal government has to fund salad bars, and most health experts agree!
Ryan’s vision is much larger than just encouraging healthy eating. He sees this as another positive step towards his Real Food Revolution. His is a vision of education and prevention. In a speech earlier last month when he announced that he was working on this bill, he explained that the educational value of salad bars along with disease (mainly obesity) preventing benefits could start a positive feedback loop of better health and funding for schools. As more people are given access and education about fresh fruits and vegetables, we will see our healthcare costs decrease; as health care costs decrease more funding can be allocated to health and wellness programs in schools and municipalities.
We know that healthy eating isn’t everything (there are certainly other factors that contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes), but it helps—ALOT! School lunches have certainly gotten healthier in the past five years, but they still have a long way to go. And the national reach of Ryan’s bill would have an effect on a broader audience. So far, the bill is not up for a vote, but it is certainly receiving enthusiastic support from the produce industry.
It is fabulous to see this kind of initiative and vision from a vocal minority in Congress. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for its passage.
Image via Flickr
The Salad Bars in Schools Expansion Act via Tim Ryan
Dems offer federal grants, 'technical assistance' to help schools build salad bars via Washington Examiner
School Lunches Are Getting Healthier via The Pew Charitable Trusts